Title: Black Magic
Author: Megan Derr
Cover Artist: H. M. Burns
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: 90,000 words
Rating: 4 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: This well rounded fantasy with a confused kingdom to save and three pairs of socially assorted lovers combining creates an escapist book equivalent of Saturday afternoon cinema.
When High Paladin Sorin discovers the brutally dismembered body of his cousin Alfrey, a much loved priest in the royal palace, he is left baffled as to who would do so terrible a thing to so good a man. But to find the answer to that question, he must cooperate with one of the highly despised necromancers, men who practice black magic, sleep in graveyards and feed upon souls …
The necromancer Koray, however, is far from what he expected. He is beautiful, stubborn, and possessed of a tongue sharp enough to cut down even the High Paladin himself. Koray is also possessed of a strength like nothing Sorin has ever encountered, and the power of the Goddess herself.
It does not take them long to realize that solving a murder is the easiest challenge they must face, and in order to save a kingdom they must first unravel centuries of lies and misunderstandings.
Black Magic was quite an epic fantasy, very concerned with social prejudice, misjudgement and lost knowledge. The action is set predominantly in a kingdom with an all knowing and hands on deity who made me think of a rather bossy aunt. Her habit of psychically elbowing her chosen ministers in the midriff when they displeased her was somewhat disconcerting. Being more than usually atheist at the moment I found the hints, nods and winks method of imparting divine wisdom a bit irritating.
The kingdom is at a watershed of change, murder, dark deeds and newly discovered old ideas are the catalyst for an exciting reconciliation. At the forefront of these social revolutions is the development of three unexpected relationships, each rather shocking and challenging the status quo, because of the social status of the men involved.
The main relationship is that of Sorin, a white knight figure whose attraction to Koray, a social outsider because of his misunderstood role as necromancer, starts the hierarchical misalliances. This bickering courtship is engaging and I liked Koray with all his understandable prickly insecurities. The other two relationships are both vibrant and distinctive, adding to the strong feelings of comradeship and shared interests that run throughout.
The book’s language is somewhat workmanlike, but the action is exciting enough and the different interactions with the very different assorted couples added a vein of light romance that I enjoyed. The spiritual fantasy world is nicely balanced between the main characters with a symmetry that helped expand the plot rather nicely. Suitably with this complicated braid of characters, there is more than one villain. I found a later discovered instigator of evil to be somewhat underdeveloped for all they did. The story meanders a touch unevenly as things have to be discovered, explained and then complicated before all can resolved, but I thought the physical and historical journeys added good things to the mix.
An enjoyable almost old fashioned type of muscular demon slaying fantasy combined with a touch of interesting social change and the added variety of the three male romances created a good book to escape in.